Recently, two separate studies were conducted involving hundreds of exhibitors to determine exactly what works and what doesn’t when it comes to trade show practices. Skyline Exhibits and Access Intelligence Research & Consulting asked over 400 exhibitors how to get better results from their trade shows.
The breakdown of participants – 90% of whom are either exhibitors or event marketing specialists -- looks like this:
47% work for companies whose gross revenue < $10 million
33% earn total sales of $10 million to $100 million
19% work for companies whose gross revenue > $100 million
These participants were asked questions related to how they improved their trade show results over the previous two years. Surveyors commented on everything from selecting the best shows to utilizing social media to choosing the best staff. In both surveys, the number one recommendation for improving trade show effectiveness was the same….
Better Pre-Show Marketing
According to the study, the top six channels that the marketing team utilized to up their pre-show marketing game were:6. Snail mail postcards/mailers
5. Magazine/internet ads
4. Phone calls to VIP clients
3. Emails to event management lists
2. Social media
1. Personal emails to clients and potentials
A quick glance at that list makes it pretty clear what works and what doesn’t. Since your team’s time, energy, and resources are limited, help them capitalize on what has been proven to work. Take a look at these best practices (recommended by successful exhibitors!) for improving your pre-show marketing routine:
- Get personal. Send personal emails to your VIP clients and new prospects. There’s a reason that was the number one improvement. In the age of technology, people still want to have a connected, to be personally reached out to.
- Get social. Social media is going to be at the top of the list for reaching people for the foreseeable future. Almost everyone is on there. Nearly 100% of companies have a presence there. Use it to promote your company, your event, your involvement at an event. Let people see you being social and having fun. It’s a big draw!
- Get coffee. It’s hard to turn down someone who’s offering to buy you coffee (or breakfast or dinner!). Invite your top prospects out for a beverage or a meal in order to connect with them. Not only will that personalize your company, it will help you gain deeper insight into their needs and motivations.
To maximize the advantage of the above 3 suggestions, you’ll need to get your ducks in a row when it comes to communication, event details, and more. For example:
- Use a unifying theme on all pre-show communications. Brand yourself so that your customers and potentials recognize you, paving the way for sales and marketing to make contact.
- Make sure all pre-show communications have your booth number, schedule of demos or live events, important info, and contact information.
- Simplify the invite process for sales and other staff. Make sure they have the right info, the right messages, and in a timely manner.
- Use event management programs to market to your audience. These programs can also be used to market to the show’s own database, if they make that available and it’s in your target demographic.
- Take advantage of giveaways, drawings, promotions to increase participation. Drive traffic by letting your audience know you’ll be offering a special gift for anyone who comes to the booth. Woo your customers by mentioning that you have a “special announcement” for those who drop by.
The fact is that pre-show marketing is a game changer. However, there are lots of ways to do that. Research shows that a personal connection of some sort – email, lunch date, connecting on social media, etc. – are the most effective in drawing people in. Be creative in implementing new ways to reach the people you’d most like to connect with!
This article was inspired by "The #1 Way to Improve Trade Show Effectiveness" by Mary Rita Crowe and first appeared at skyline.com